Migrating Seeds

By Eve Pranis

"You can imagine how short our growing season must be here in Anchorage (AK)," reports teacher Glenn Oliver. "But my second through sixth grade students don't let that get in the way of our gardening."

"We just have to do things a little differently, such as raising certain crops inside our greenhouse," he adds. Not a bad choice. Those Alaskan summer days pushed his students' greenhouse-grown corn to 13 feet! (Consider sharing this with your students, then exploring what, besides being in a greenhouse, could account for such phenomenal corn growth.)

Glenn's young scientists also use flowering bulbs as "bio-thermometers." Curious about how bulbs respond to climatic conditions, the students planted 1,200 King Alfred daffodils. They wondered when the shoots would first appear and bloom. "By rigorously checking past and current weather data and reviewing snowfall charts for our area, the students were able to make informed predictions," explains Glenn. Daffodil bloom time in Alaska, they discovered, is closely tied to the disappearance of snow. Consider engaging your students in tracking what factors coincide with bulb blooming in your area.

Fruitful Exchanges

"Our spectacular field of perennial blue lupines inspired my students' interest in saving seeds," explains Glenn. His young scientists collected the seeds, then tested conditions under which they would germinate. "We discovered that lupine seeds were most likely to germinate after being frozen for several months (a situation our Alaskan climate provides). At about the same time, we made connections with students in other states through the E-Mail Pals section of your Web site," says Glenn. Students they had linked with in New Mexico, Florida, and other states received northern-grown lupine seeds and, in turn, sent seeds from plants they had grown or gathered in their areas. While students across the country were planting and tending new seed types, they were also cultivating new friendships and an exchange of ideas.

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